28 July 1986|
Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes, France
John Alcott, BSC (1931 – 28 July 1986) was an English cinematographer best known for his four collaborations with director Stanley Kubrick; these are 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), for which he took over as lighting cameraman from Geoffrey Unsworth in mid-shoot, A Clockwork Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975), the film for which he won his Oscar, and The Shining (1980). Alcott died from a heart attack in Cannes, France in July 1986; he was 55. He received a tribute at the end of his last film No Way Out starring Kevin Costner.
John's father was Arthur Alcott, a film executive. At a young age, Alcott started his career in film by becoming a clapper boy, which was the lowest position in the camera crew chain. As time progressed however, he moved his way up and eventually became the third highest position of the camera following the lighting cameraman and the main camera operator. His position was extremely important, as his job was to adjust, focus and measure the lens and distance between the actor or object being shot and the camera itself.
Alcott's big break was given to him by Stanley Kubrick, who was a master cinematographer, director, and producer. Kubrick promoted Alcott to lighting cameraman in 1968 while working on 2001: A Space Odyssey and from there the two created an inseparable collaboration, in which they worked together on more than one occasion. In 1971, Kubrick then elevated Alcott to director of photography on A Clockwork Orange which was nominated for four Academy Awards in Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing, however the film did not win in any category.
Alcott studied lighting and how the light fell in the rooms of a set. He would do this so that when he shot his work it would look like natural lighting, not stage lighting. It was this extra work and research that made his films look so visually beautiful.
Along with his Academy Award for Barry Lyndon, the film is considered to be one of the greatest and most beautiful movies made in terms of its visuals. Not one, but three films worked on by Alcott were ranked between 1950–1997 in the top 20 of “Best Shot”, voted by the American Society of Cinematographers. Yet another great accomplishment made possible by John Alcott.
Not only was Alcott a highly regarded cinematographer, in the 80s when he immigrated into the United States of America he directed and shot commercials for television at the well known, Paisley Productions, based in Hollywood.
While in Cannes, France, Alcott suffered a heart attack and died on 28 July 1986. In memory and honour of John Alcott, the "BSC John Alcott ARRI Award" was created by the British Society of Cinematographers to honour fellow lighting cameramen in film. John Alcott leaves behind wife Sue and son Gavin who is now following in his father's steps.
- A Clockwork Orange (1971)
- Little Malcolm (1974)
- Overlord (1975)
- Barry Lyndon (1975)
- March or Die (1977)
- The Disappearance (1977)
- Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978)
- The Shining (1980)
- Terror Train (1980)
- Fangio – Una vita a 300 all'ora (1981)
- Fort Apache the Bronx (1981)
- Triumphs of a Man Called Horse (1982)
- Vice Squad (1982)
- The Beastmaster (1982)
- Under Fire (1983)
- Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)
- Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985)
- Miracles (1986)
- White Water Summer (1987)
- No Way Out (1987)
- 1973: BAFTA Award nomination for A Clockwork Orange
- 1976: Oscar for Barry Lyndon
- 1976: BAFTA Award for Barry Lyndon
- 1984: BAFTA Award nomination for Greystoke
- "JOHN ALCOTT, AN OSCAR WINNER FOR CINEMATOGRAPHY, IS DEAD". The New York Times. 3 August 1986. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
- "Barry Lyndon: Kubrick's neglected masterpiece". The Daily Telegraph. 5 February 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2010.
- John Alcott Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005633/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
- N/A. (1977). John Alcott. The Independent Film Journal (Archive: 1937–1979), 80(3), 6–7.
- N/A. (2000). Clockwork orange. Retrieved from http://kubrickfilms.warnerbros.com/video_detail/cwo/
- N/A. (2014). Overview for John Alcott. Retrieved from http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/person/1770%7C85034/John-Alcott/